Even as we approach the cultural apocalypse of ubiquitous, fully immersive, photo-real multiplayer video game environments, there are still those of us who like to play board or tabletop games. The communal wargaming experience, for instance, is very different from playing a networked MMORPG or turn-based strategy game. Whereas WarCraft or Xbox Live is kind of like hanging out with your buds watching TV, actually getting together and playing a board game is more like a real party. There’s usually music and snacks and beverages and lots of gregarious BS-ing of a type that just isn’t as practical over a network line. Manipulating the physical game pieces is also satisfying in a way that virtual objects have yet to achieve, and probably won’t for some time to come.
A lot of folks who are into tabletop gaming eventually end up making their own pieces, for one reason or another. They may be making a custom army to compete in a wargame with established rules, or they may be making up their own game for which no commercial pieces are available. For these folks there’s an array of techniques available. The simplest, as in wargaming days of yore, is to use illustrated paper or cardboard “chits” that lay flat on the gaming surface. A step up from that involves buying or making bases so your cardboard heroes can stand upright, which not only makes them look better but makes them much easier to manipulate. If the cardboard approach is too wimpy for you, you can always purchase commercial 3D miniature figures and paint and/or customize them to suit your taste.
Polyolefin shrink film presents an intermediate approach to original miniature design, midway between cheap paper or cardboard cutouts and fully dimensional figurines. Shrinky-dinks are much more durable than card stock, and unlike store-bought figurines, they are completely customizable. Best of all, you can make all your artistic mistakes at the software level, where they’re easy to fix.